Mercer Professor Earns Award for Helping Students with Disabilities

December 20, 2010

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu

MACON — Dr. Kyra Osmus, a professor of human services at Mercer University, was honored as the first recipient of the Adam Milani Disability Awareness Outstanding Faculty Award at the University. While she has spent much of her time at Mercer helping students with disabilities, she was cited for her work with Jeremy Sloan, a senior human services major with cerebral palsy.

Dr. Osmus said that she has been inspired by Sloan’s perseverance in overcoming the obstacles he has faced in his life, including a life in foster care and lack of family support. Confined to a wheelchair, he has suffered setbacks several times in his two years at Mercer, suffering several hospitalizations and the theft of his computer by an attendant. Osmus led a donation drive among faculty to replace the computer and, as Sloan’s adviser, helped him work through the withdrawals and re-entries required by his hospitalizations.

“Jeremy is an amazing person. He’s a bright young man and he’s made good friends in our classes,” Dr. Osmus said. “His will to overcome all that he has had to deal with in his life has been an inspiration.”

Dr. Osmus, a professor in the Counseling and Human Services Department in the College of Continuing Education, has been at Mercer for 25 years. She also developed some of the University’s first adult educational offerings. In 2006, the National Organization for Human Services presented Dr. Osmus with the Lenore McNeer Award, its top recognition. Part of her motivation to get into the field was a college friend who was in a wheelchair, which her friend never let get in the way.

“She was my introduction into what was possible,” Dr Osmus said. “She helped me to develop a good perspective and the value of not making assumptions about people.”

That perspective has helped her with numerous students, including Sloan, who at 37 is now one course away from graduating. He credits Dr. Osmus for his success at Mercer. For the first time in his life, he was named an honors student, and was inducted into Tau Epsilon Alpha, the human services honor society. Her support and mentorship has been invaluable, he said, and he hopes that he can one day provide that support to others. Sloan will be entering Mercer’s counseling program in Atlanta to earn his master’s degree in the fall.

“She’s been the best adviser you could have. She’s really gone above and beyond what a normal adviser would do,” Sloan said.

Sloan is a study in perseverance, with limited use of his hands. Even short papers can take days to type. His condition also makes it painful to sit in his wheelchair for extended periods, making long classes strenuous for him. But he is determined, he said. If he can go on to get his degree, Sloan hopes to inspire others.

“I don’t believe in giving up,” he said. “I’m hoping someday I can be an inspiration to others who have barriers and have doubts, or who are scared to go back to school.”

He hopes it will also translate into his future profession as a counselor, adding “I’ve been through a lot in my life, but I’ve found that no matter what you go through, you can always pick yourself up.”

About the award:
The Adam Milani Disability Awareness Outstanding Faculty Award is named in honor of Mercer Law School Professor Adam Milani, who was disabled by a spinal injury as a young man. Milani was an award-winning professor and well-known attorney and scholar in the area of disability law before his death in 2005.

About the College of Continuing and Professional Studies
The College offers degree programs and lifelong learning opportunities for adults who seek leadership roles in their communities and beyond, professional transition and advancement, and lives that have meaning and purpose. The College offers undergraduate degree programs in organizational leadership, human resources administration and development, public safety, liberal studies (individualized), and human services, and graduate programs in counseling, school counseling, and public safety leadership. Its programs are offered on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses, at the University’s regional academic centers in Henry County, Douglas County, Eastman and Newnan. Beginning the fall of 2011 the College will offer a Bachelor of Science in Informatics and in January 2012 a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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